Domestic Violence: Know the Facts

The statistics are sobering: One in four women experiences domestic violence at some point during her lifetime, and an estimated 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner every year, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Some 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women, and those between the ages of 20 and 24 are at highest risk.

Victims suffer both physical and emotional trauma, because domestic abuse isn't only about bodily assault. Whenever a woman—or in some cases, a man—is subject to willful intimidation, sexual assault, or other abusive behaviors by an intimate partner, it's domestic violence.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, domestic violence is more common in the summer and during the holidays, Ramirez says. "When it's hot out, people get frustrated," she says. "And in the summer and at holidays, people have time off from work. The kids are off." Tempers are short and those prone to violence may lash out.

Discussing—and Escaping—Abuse

In the past, domestic violence was often a taboo topic, but "Domestic abuse is much more visible today because both men and women are much more likely to discuss it with someone," says Elda Ramirez, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, associate professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UT Health) School of Nursing. "Family members of victims are starting to pick up on it and do something about it."

Nonetheless, all too often, women simply don't report domestic violence. In fact, it's one of the most underreported crimes, with only about one quarter of physical assaults and one fifth of all rapes committed against women by their intimate partners reported to the police, according to the Coalition.

Also unfortunately, escaping domestic violence can seem impossible for a woman who is suffering abuse at the hands of a partner. "It's terrifying for a woman," Ramirez says. "If she wants to leave the perpetrator, she has to leave behind her whole life." And if the abuser finds out that his victim is trying to get away, he usually suspects that she has told someone about what is going on, and/or she has contacted the police. If given the opportunity, he may harm her again, Ramirez says.

It's crucial for a victim to have an escape plan, she says. "It is important to understand that the situation is not going to get any better," Ramirez explains. "The perpetrator may say, 'It won't happen again,' and she may wait for it to blow over, but it doesn't."

What You Can Do

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, follow these guidelines:

  • If you sense that you are in danger, call the police.
  • Talk to someone you trust, like a friend, relative, religious advisor, or neighbor about what is going on, and ask for their help.
  • Tell your physician or therapist about the abuse.
  • Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. You may be referred to a local or state domestic violence coalition. Every state has a coalition, and for victims seeking referrals and services, these can be very helpful.
  • Look up "domestic violence shelters," "domestic violence help," or "crisis intervention" on an Internet search engine or in the Yellow Pages.
  • If you are the victim, enlist the help of a domestic abuse agency or shelter to develop a safety plan that you can put into action in case of an emergency.

Elda G. Ramirez, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, reviewed this article.


"Domestic Violence." American Psychiatric Association. Web. Page accessed 13 September 2013.

"Know Your Rights: Domestic Violence." American Bar Association. Web. Accessed 13 September 2013.

"Domestic Violence Facts." National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. July 2007. Web. Page accessed 13 September 2013.